Hedwig of Andechs, born in 1174 at the Castle of Andechs was one of eight children born to Berthold IV, the Count of Andechs and Duke of Croatia and Dalmatia. Hedwig, Duchess of Silesia, was educated at the monastery of Kitzingen, and according to an old biography, at the age of twelve (1186), was married to Henry I of Silesia. Henry I succeeded his father Boleslaw I as Duke of Silesia. The union of Henry and Hedwig brought the Duke into closer relations with Germany, since his mother was German and he himself had been educated in Germany. Henry I was an energetic prince, who greatly extended the boundaries of his duchy, established his authority on a firm basis, and rendered important services to civilization in the realm. Hedwig exercised her great influence in the government of the land through her prudence, fortitude, and piety. In particular she gave her support to new monastic foundations and assisted those already in existence. It was chiefly through the monasteries that German civilization was spread in Silesia. At the instance of his saintly wife, the duke then founded at his own expense, and on ground donated by himself the convent of the Cistercian nuns at Trebnitz in 1202, and generously endowed it. This was the first house of religious women in Silesia.
The couple had seven children, however, only two lived to have productive lives: Henry who succeeded his father’s title, and Gertrude who embraced religious life as an abbess at the Abbey of Trebnitz. After her husband’s death, Hedwig took the grey habit of the Cistercians, but was not received into the order as a religious, that she might retain the right to spend her revenue in charities. The duchess practiced severe mortification, endured all trials with the greatest resignation, with self-denying charity cared for the sick and supported the poor; in her interior life of prayer, she gave herself up to meditation on supernatural things. Through this, she grew in the strength of the Spirit and in grace, blazing within her the fire of devotion and divine love. Her piety and gentleness won for her even during life, the reputation of a saint. When she died on October 15, 1243, she was laid to rest in the church attached to the Monastery at Trebnitz. At this time, the fame of her sanctity had already spread through Poland and then swiftly throughout the world. So many miracles were wrought through her intercession that Pope Clement IV proclaimed her a saint on March 26, 1267 and on August 25 of the same year, her remains were raised to the honors of the Altar.
This servant of God, never neglected the practice of all good works. Through the divine favor of the sufferings of Christ she was given this grace when she lacked human means to do good, when her own strength failed. She had the power to relieve the bodily and spiritual troubles of all who sought her help.
St. Hedwig is the patron saint of Silesia, of Andechs, the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of and the Roman Catholic Diocese of Gorlitz, Germany. She is the patroness of brides, death of children, difficult marriages, victims of jealousy, widows and duchesses. Symbols attributed to her include a noble woman holding a church (symbolizing a monastery) or noble woman holding a pair of shoes under her arm. Her feast day is celebrated on October 16.